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Effects of allocare-givers on fitness of infants and parents in callitrichid primates.

  • Bales, K
  • Dietz, J
  • Baker, A
  • Miller, K
  • Tardif, S D
Published Article
Folia primatologica; international journal of primatology
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2000
PMID: 10686485


The effects of callitrichid primate helpers (allocare-givers other than an infant's father) on the survival, reproduction or behavior of infants and parents are reviewed, using both published studies and data from free-ranging golden lion tamarins (Leontopithecus rosalia). Three lines of evidence suggest that helpers may increase their own inclusive fitness: (1) The number of adult males acting as helpers in free-ranging groups is correlated with the number of surviving infants in 3 callitrichid species. However, the lack of a negative correlation with number of infants dying suggests that activities other than direct infant care (e.g. territory defense) may be more important, especially in newly formed groups. (2) In 2 species, captive groups with helpers carry infants for longer periods of time than do groups without helpers. Whether such differences would translate into meaningful survival differences in free-ranging groups is unclear. (3) Helpers reduce the energetic burden of parents by reducing the amount of time they spend transporting or provisioning infants in at least 4 species. Reproductive males are more likely than reproductive females to benefit from the presence of helpers, reducing their investment in infant care activities as the number of helpers in the group increases. In free-ranging golden lion tamarins, the reproductive tenure of males, but not females, increases with the number of helpers in the group, suggesting that a reduction in energetic investment may translate into increased survival. 'Decisions' made by helpers to participate in infant transport are weighed against competing needs for foraging, vigilance, territory defense and, in some cases, prospecting for breeding opportunities. Given this complexity, a sophisticated model may be required to answer the question of how helpers 'decide' to participate in infant care versus other activities.


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